Thursday, March 17, 2011

Am I Working Half The Program?

When I was new to Al-Anon, my personal misery loomed so large that I was quite unable to look past my own nose, to see how my behavior affected those around me. As I continued to attend meetings, and talk to my sponsor, I could see, dimly, that the 12 Steps were about doing something different in my own life, but the 12 Traditions were a blur of unfamiliar words, and lofty-sounding principles. I didn't get it. I didn't get it for many years, because although I was willing to attend a 12 Step group anytime one was available to me, I would always weasle out of any study of the Traditions - I couldn't see the point. I couldn't understand how they had any resonance in my life or my program.

It wasn't until I began to attend open AA meetings, and occasionally a different meeting from my usual one, that I began to hear people sharing about the 12 Traditions. The Al-Anon group I was attending at the time, never seemed to get around to the Traditions in our meeting topics.

At the "new-to-me" group, when members shared about the Traditions, I heard the same strength of feeling as when they shared about the Steps. This got me wondering if I'd been working half a program up to that point. I talked to my sponsor, and we began to study the Traditions together. Wise woman, she hadn't tried to force them down my throat, because she'd been well aware of my resistance, and knew that if she tried to push me toward them, I'd have exerted ten times her effort, to resist.

The privation of my upbringing, and then the years of living with a drinking alcoholic, had turned me into a self-obsessed person with little or no ability to empathise. It was all about me. What I thought, what I felt, what I wanted, what I needed....I felt ripped off by life and love, and my pilot light was fed by an inner seething rage. This does not make for a person who is much interested in other people. I may have been a rampant people-pleaser, but that stemmed more from fear, than any real ability to see the other person as a separate individual with his/her own rights.

Studying the Traditions taught me to stretch my consideration past myself, to encompass those in the meeting room with me. I learned:

1. I am no more, and no less important, than anyone else in the room.

2. There are no experts/bosses/supervisors in Al-Anon; we work to be open to a loving Higher Power in our group conscience.

3. I don't have to agree with anything I don't care to, and there are no tests I have to pass to be able to attend a meeting.

4. We can do whatever works for us within the loose framework, as long as we don't step on anyone else's toes.

5. The topic of this meeting is Al-Anon; come on in, and please, be kind.

6. We aren't buying or selling anything. AA is our friend.

7. We pay our own piper, so we can call our own tune.

8. We understand the necessity for a level playing field; we might need to pay someone to attend to the grass.

9. Keep the rules and regulations down to the absolute minimum to make it work.

10. All the stuff that gets in the way so often in life, doesn't matter here - it's off-topic.

11. Nobody will chase you down the street trying to make you join us; we don't gossip.

12. Miracles for everybody, happen when the greater good matters more than the me-mind.


  1. "I felt ripped off by life and love, and my pilot light was fed by an inner seething rage. This does not make for a person who is much interested in other people."

    Very nice: I appreciate the way you phrased that.

  2. The traditions have helped me a lot. I appreciate your take on them in this post. I believe that I did not know how to relate to others. I am getting better.